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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Painful Journey to St. Augustine

By Jonathan Dickinson (1663–1722)

[From God’s Protecting Providence. 1699.]

THE 9 MONTH 11. We embarked in our two boats, and those of our people that were at the other town were to have a large canoe to carry them thence, and were to meet us in the Sound. We rowed several leagues and did not meet them; being then about ten o’clock; the Spaniard would go on shore and travel back by land to see after them. We being by an inlet of the sea which was a mile over, the Spaniard ordered us to go on the other side and there stay for him; which we did many hours…. At length the canoe with our people came, but our Spaniard was not come, but in about half an hour’s time he came with a small canoe….

We set forward in our two boats and the two canoes, and rowed till night, being nigh a place of thicketty wood, which we made choice of to lodge at for this night. Here was wood enough. We made large fires, were pleased with the place, and lay down to rest. About midnight I had a great loss. Having about a quart of berries whole, and as much pounded to mix with water to feed our child with, the fire being disturbed, the cloth which we had our food in was burnt. All was lost, and nothing to be had until we could get to the Spaniards, which was two days’ march at least. About an hour after this the wind rose at northwest and it began to rain….

In this shower of rain the four Indians got from amongst us, took their canoes, and away they went back again. When day appeared, we missed them, upon which we went to the waterside, where we found the two canoes gone. And now we were in a great strait; but the Spaniard said, those that could travel best must go by land. The persons pitched upon were Richard Limpeney, Andrew Murray, Cornelius Toker, Joseph Kirle’s boy, John Hilliard, and Penelope, with seven negroes, named Peter, Jack, Cæsar, Sarah, Bell, Susanna and Quenza. The Spaniard and the Indian Wan-Antonia went with them to direct them, the way carrying them over land to the seashore, and then directing to keep the seashore along to the northward.

They returned to us, and we with our two boats rowed all day without ceasing till sunsetting; and when we put on shore, the place was an old Indian field on a high bleak hill, where had been a large Indian house, but it was tumbled down. Of the ruins of this house we made a shelter against the northwest wind, which began to blow very bleak. The Spaniard went to the sea, which was not two miles off, to see if our people had passed, and at his return he said, they were gone by. We asked if they could reach to any house or Indian town for shelter; for we supposed, should they be without fire this night, they could not live. He said, they must travel all night. Night came on. We had fire and wood enough, and had gathered a great heap of grass to lie in, hoping to have got some rest; but the northwest increased, and the cold was so violent, that we were in a lamentable condition, not able to rest; for as we lay or stood so close to the fire that it would scorch us, that side from it was ready to freeze. We had no other way but to stand and keep turning for the most part of the night. We all thought that we never felt the like. The Spaniard that was clothed was as bad to bear it as we that were naked. At length day appeared and we must go.

The 9 month 13. This morning we were loath to part with our fires; but to stay here it could not be. So we went to our boats; wading in the water was ready to benumb us. But we put forward, and rowing about two leagues came to an old house, where the Spaniard told us we must leave the boats and travel by land. We had a boggy marsh to wade through for a mile to get to the seashore, and had about five or six leagues along the bay or strand to the Spanish sentinel’s house. The northwest wind was violent, and the cold such that the strongest of us thought we should not outlive that day. Having got through the boggy marsh and on the seashore, our people, black and white, made all speed, one not staying for another that could not travel so fast; none but I with my wife and child, Robert Barrow, my kinsman Benjamin Allen and my negro London, whom I kept to help carry my child, keeping together. The rest of our company had left us, expecting not to see some of us again, especially Robert Barrow, my wife and child. We travelled after as well as we could; having gone about two miles, the cold so seized on my kinsman Benjamin Allen that he began to be stiff in his limbs, and staggered and fell, grievously complaining that the cold would kill him. Our negro having our young child, I and my wife took our kinsman under each arm and helped him along; but at length his limbs were quite stiff, his speech almost gone, and he began to foam at the mouth. In this strait we knew not what to do; to stay with him we must perish also, and we were willing to strive as long as we could. We carried our kinsman and laid him under the bank, not being dead. I resolved to run after our people, some of them not being out of sight; which I did, and left my wife and child with the negro to follow as fast as they could. I ran about two miles, making signs to them, thinking, if they should look behind and see me running, they would stop till I got up with them. I was in hopes that if I could have accomplished this my design, to have got help to have carried my kinsman along. But they stopped not, and I ran until the wind pierced me so that my limbs failed, and I fell; yet still I strove and getting up walked backwards to meet my wife. As I was going, I met with the Spaniard coming out of the sand-hills, and Joseph Kirle’s negro Ben. I made my complaint to the Spaniard, but he, not being able to understand me well, went forward. I then applied myself to the negro, making large promises, if he would fetch my kinsman; he offered to go back and use his endeavor, which he did. At length my wife and child came up with me. She was almost overcome with grief, expressing in what manner we were forced to part with our kinsman, and expecting that she and the child should go next.

Poor Robert Barrow was a great way behind us. I feared we should never see him again. I used my endeavor to comfort and cheer my wife, entreating her not to let grief overcome her. I had hopes that the Lord would help us in this strait, as He hath done in many since we were in this land….

I took my child from the negro and carried him. I had an Indian mat with a split in it, through which I put my head, hanging over my breast unto my waist. Under this I carried my child, which helped to break the wind off it; but the poor babe was black with cold from head to foot, and its flesh as cold as a stone; yet it was not froward. Its mother would take it now and then, and give it the breast, but little could it get at it; besides, we dared not stop in the least, for if we did, we should perceive our limbs to fail. About two o’clock in the afternoon we came up with our negro woman Hagar, with her child at her back almost dead; and a little further we came up with our negro girl Quenza, being dead as we thought, for she was as stiff as a dead body could be, and her eyes set; but at length we perceived her breathe; but she had no sense, nor motion. We carried her from the waterside under the bank. This increased my wife’s sorrow, and she began to doubt she should not be able to travel much further; but I endeavored to encourage her not to leave striving as long as any ability was left….

The sun was nigh setting, and we began to look out for the sentinel’s post; and my negro at times got upon several of the highest sand-hills to look out, but could not see any house nor the smoke of fire. This was terrible to us all, for the day being so cold, the night much more, and we not able to travel without rest, being a starved people both within our bodies and without, and if we ceased from travelling, we should instantly be numbed and move no further. In the midst of these reasonings and doubtings we were got into, I espied a man, as I thought, standing on the bank, but at great distance. I was afraid to speak, lest it should prove otherwise; but he was soon seen by the whole company, and at length we espied him walking towards the land. This confirmed us, and so we took to the hills again to look out, yet could not see the house from thence; but on the next hill we saw it. This was joy unto us, though we began to have a sense of our tiredness, for our resolution abated after we had got sight of the house.

When we got to the house, we found four sentinels and the Spaniard our guide, with the three of our men, viz., Joseph Buckley, Nathaniel Randall, and John Shires. The Spaniard bid us welcome and made room for us to sit down by the fire. The chiefest man of the sentinels took a kersey coat and gave my wife to cover her, and gave each of us a piece of bread made of Indian corn, which was pleasant unto us; after it we had plenty of hot casseena drink. It was dark, and we endeavored to prevail with the Spaniards to go seek for Robert Barrow and my kinsman, offering them considerable; but they seemed not fully to understand me, yet I could make them sensible that my kinsman was almost dead, if not quite, and that the old man was in a bad condition. They made me to understand that the weather was not fit to go out, but they would watch if Robert should pass by. About an hour or two after, one of the Spaniards being walking out of the bay met with Robert and brought him into the house. We rejoiced to see him, and inquired concerning our kinsman and negro Ben. He said our kinsman was striving to get up and could not; he came to him and spake unto him; he could not answer, but cried, and he could not help him; but coming along at some considerable distance met negro Ben, who said he was going for Benjamin Allen, so he past him; and some miles further he saw negro Jack drawing himself down from the bank, his lower parts being dead, and crying out for some fire that he might save his life; but he did not see the negro girl whom we hauled out of the way. We were under a great concern for our kinsman; the Spaniards we could not prevail upon to go and fetch him, or go and carry wherewith to make a fire; which had they done and found them living, it might have preserved them; but we hoped negro Ben would bring our kinsman.

The Spaniards would have had most of us to have gone to the next sentinel’s house, which was a league further; but we all begged hard of them to let us lie in their house in any place on the ground for we were not able to travel further: besides, the cold would kill us; for we were in such a trembling, shaking condition, and so full of pain from head to foot, that it’s not to be expressed. At length the Spaniards consented that Robert Barrow, I, my wife and child, and John Smith should lie in the house; but to Joseph Buckley, Nathaniel Randall, John Shires and my negro London they would not grant that favor. So one of the Spaniards taking a firebrand bid those four go with him. He directed them to a small thicket of trees and showed them to gather wood and make large fires and sleep there. These poor creatures lay out, and it proved a hard, frosty night. The Spaniard returned and said they were got into a wood and had fire enough. We were silent, but feared they would hardly live till morning.

After they were gone, the Spaniards took a pint of Indian corn and parched it and gave part to us, which we accepted cheerfully; also they gave us some casseena drink. We were in extraordinary pain, so that we could not rest, and our feet were extremely bruised; the skin was off, and the sand caked with the blood that we could hardly set our feet to the ground after we had been some time in the house. The night was extreme cold though we were in the house; and by the fire we could not be warm, for one side did scorch whilst the other was ready to freeze: and thus we passed the night.

The 9 month 14. This morning we looked out, and there was a very hard frost on the ground, so it was terrible to go out of doors. Our people returned from the wood, but complained heavily of their hardship in the night. They had not been an hour in the house before the Spaniards gave us all a charge to be gone to the next sentinel’s house. This was grievous to us all, but more especially to my wife, who could not raise herself when down; but go we must, for, though we entreated hard for my wife and Robert Barrow, we could not prevail that they might stay till we could get a canoe. As we were all going one Spaniard made a sign for me and my wife to stay, which we did; and it was to have a handful of parched corn. As soon as we had received it they bid us be gone to the next sentinel’s, where was victuals enough for us. The sun was a great height, but we could not feel any warmth it gave, the northwester beginning to blow as hard as it did the day before; and having deep sand to travel through, which made our travelling this one league very hard, especially to my wife and Robert. The Spaniards sent my wife a blanket, to be left at the next sentinel’s house.

At length we came to an inlet of the sea; on the other side was the look-out and sentinel’s house. Here were all our people sitting, waiting to be carried over, and in a little time came one of the sentinels with a canoe and carried us over.

This sentinel would not suffer us to come into his house, but caused us to kindle a fire under the lee of his house and there sit down. About half an hour after he bid us be gone to the next sentinel’s, which was a league further, giving us a cup of casseena and two quarts of Indian corn for us all, bidding us go to our company at next house and have our corn dressed there.

I understood that our negro woman Hagar got hither late last night having her child dead at her back, which the Spaniards buried.

One of the Spaniards went with us to the next inlet, carrying a stick of fire to set fire of some trash to make a signal for them on the other side to fetch us over, the inlet being very wide. When the canoe came over for us, our guide took the blanket from my wife; but the negro which brought over the canoe lent my wife one of his coats; so we got over, but before we got to the house we had a shower of hail. At this house we were kindly received, having such a mess of victuals as we had not had in a long time before, which was very pleasant to our hunger-starved stomachs. Our people went hence this morning for Augusteen, having a guide with them; but John Hoster and Penelope were left here, not being able to travel. We remained here till the morrow, but the night was so extreme cold that we could not rest.

The 9 month 15. This morning the Spaniards bid us prepare to travel, for they were not able to maintain us. We understood that it was five or six leagues to Augusteen, and we could not travel so far, being all of us lamed and stiff. We entreated them to let us go in a canoe, but they denied us. We entreated for the two women and Robert Barrow. At length we prevailed that they should go up in a canoe, for the canoe was to go whether we went or not.

While all this discourse was, came in a couple of Spaniards, one being the sentinel that went with our people the day before; the other was a person the Governor had sent with a canoe and four Spaniards to fetch us. This was cheerful news; for had we gone to have travelled without a guide, we should have perished. The man that came for us brought two blankets, one for my wife, the other for Penelope. He desired us to be going. About a league distance from the place he left the canoe, which we parted with very unwillingly; for some of our people, had they had a mile further to have gone, could not have gone it. The wind still continued at northwest and blowed very fiercely; and extreme cold it was. We had such a continual shivering and pain in our bones that we were in violent anguish.

Our poor child was quiet, but so black with cold and shaking that it was admirable how it lived. We got to Augusteen about two hours before night. Being put on shore, we were directed to the Governor’s house; being got thither we were led up a pair of stairs, at the head whereof stood the Governor, who ordered my wife to be conducted to his wife’s apartment. I and John Smith went into a room where the Governor asked us a few questions; but seeing how extreme cold we were, he gave us a cup of Spanish wine and sent us into his kitchen to warm ourselves at the fire. About half an hour afterwards the Governor sent for John Smith and me and gave us a shirt and sliders, a hat and a pair of silk stockings, telling us he had no woolen clothes as yet, but would have some made. We put on the linen and made all haste into the kitchen to the fire. Robert Barrow was quartered at another house. The persons came to the Governor’s house and took such as they were minded to quarter in their houses; so that Joseph Kirle, John Smith, I, my wife and child lodged at the Governor’s house. All our people that came up with Joseph Kirle came to see us. We perceived the people’s great kindness; for they were all well clothed from head to foot with the best the people had….

We had a plentiful supper, and we fed like people that had been half starved, for we ate not knowing when we had enough: and we found our palates so changed by eating of berries, that we could not relish the taste of salt any more than if it had no saltness in it. We had lodging provided.